Football: Wenger happy to go home

Uefa Cup Third Round
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The Independent Online
ARSENAL STILL have to prove tonight that in Europe there is no place like home.

The Gunners return to Highbury for the first leg of their Uefa Cup third- round tie with the French Cup holders, Nantes, leaving behind the debris of two failed Champions' League campaigns at Wembley.

Arsene Wenger, their manager, has already admitted that the Gunners' decision to adopt the national stadium as their home ground for European matches was "a mistake". Under Wenger, they have won only four of 16 European ties in three years and the Frenchman admits: "We have to improve our record and show that we can be a real force in Europe.

"The Uefa Cup is, of course, a less prestigious competition than the Champions' League, but why should I be embarrassed to be in it? I don't make the rules and everybody knew at the start that the teams finishing third in the Champions' League group would go into the Uefa Cup.

"It is important that Arsenal do well in Europe. We have missed that. And although I defended the board's decision to play our Champions' League games at Wembley I have to concede now it was a mistake.

"We will see what effect the fans at Highbury have tomorrow, although I must say they were also great at Wembley. But the decision to go back to Highbury for the Uefa Cup was made immediately after we went out of the Champions' League against Fiorentina and I think most people will be pleased."

Dennis Bergkamp, who is fit for tonight's game, admits to mixed feelings. "Personally, I always felt fine about Wembley but the big spaces on the pitch there made it difficult for defenders and midfield players to work," he said. "At Highbury we should have an advantage because it's the typical English atmosphere, which can frighten the opposition."

Patrick Vieira, serving a seven-game domestic suspension, is set for a temporary return but Martin Keown is out with a calf injury and Lee Dixon is doubtful with a groin strain. Gilles Grimandi and Nelson Vivas are likely replacements.

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